Had a meeting with the council yesterday to talk through how churches could be involved with the homeless in our borough. There are worryingly large numbers of them for such an apparently prosperous place - 180 under 18s a year presenting themselves with no roof over their heads; another 200 of all ages per month (though many of these are returners) who'd be described as 'sofa surfers' - people who live on friends' sofas for months even years at a time.
Social changes account for the rise in numbers - the breakdown of relationships leaving people in 30s or 40s homeless but wanting to stay near children; young people seeking independence but not having the wherewithal to fund it in an expensive town; mental health, drug and alcohol problems; the pressure on housing stock because of the numbers choosing to live alone.
As I listened to these numbers being delivered by stretched council officials who clearly cared about the human lives behind these statistics, I recalled Jeremiah 29:7. Yet again this verse is becoming a major feature of my life. It called me into ministry 30 years ago. It haunts my thinking about the shape of Christian community and the nature of our mission.
And it needs to be earthed. Why would we want to help people who are homeless or at risk of becoming so? Because we want to seek their welfare. Why spend time helping people to learn the basic life skills needed to run a home, pay their bills and establish themselves as members of our community? Because we want to seek their welfare. Why work with other churches and offer our premises as a base for an advice centre? Why put our own money and resources into this? Because we want to seek the welfare of the city where we've been exiled.
This is all the agenda we need.
PS... Apparently, there's a cricketer with my name who's the 9th sexiest man in the world. Perhaps I should demand a recount....